Here’s what you need to know about oily skin and what you can do to care for it. Spoiler alert: It’s not as complicated as you may think!

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

What Causes Oily Skin?

Oily skin can be the result of genetics, hormones, age, stress, diet choices, using the wrong skincare products, or even the climate in which you live. The result, no matter the cause, remains the same: oily skin.

What causes the skin to become oily? It can all be pinned on overactive oil glands, also called sebaceous glands, in the skin. Whatever the root cause of your oily skin, the only way to combat it is with a great skincare routine.

The Symptoms of Oily Skin

Everyone's skin produces oil, but to understand if you fall into the category of oily skin type, there are a few things to be on the lookout for. The telltale signs of oily skin include:

  • Frequent breakouts, especially when you're experiencing hormone fluctuations.
  • Shiny, oily-feeling skin within an hour after cleansing.
  • Noticeable shine or grease in the T-zone, which constitutes your forehead, nose, and chin.
  • Large, noticeable pores.
  • Rough or thick looking skin.

What can throw a lot of people off the trail of oily skin is that they have a T- zone that seems very oily, but their cheeks may be dry and flaky. In this case, you may have combination skin but still struggle with all the things those with oily skin do.

Are There Any Advantages to Oily Skin?

Many people associate oily skin with bad things such as breakouts and shine, but the reality is that oily skin isn't all bad. The oils your skin produces help to keep it plump and hydrated, so you may not notice the early signs of aging that people with dry skin do.

The Best Skincare Routine for Oily Skin

The best plan of attack when it comes to oily skin is to make sure to execute a skincare routine both in the morning and at night.


A gentle cleanser in the morning will help to relieve oiliness. A gel or foam cleanser is a great choice because they help to unclog pores and remove excess oil without dehydrating or stripping the skin. Another good tip is to look for cleansers that have antibacterial ingredients to help fight acne, something that many people with oily skin struggle to overcome. Enzyme cleansers with natural exfoliants such as papaya help to prevent buildup that can cause breakouts. Some cleansers we love:

  • Epionce- Lytic Gel Cleanser
  • Revision Skincare- Papaya Enzyme Cleanser
  • SkinMedica- AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser


No matter your skin type, toning is essential to any good skincare routine. It helps to restore the pH balance of the skin and control oil, tightening up the pores on the face to help them appear smaller and removing impurities that can lead to issues with your skin. Look for toners with BHAs or AHAs to help penetrate deep into your pores and get rid of any toxins or dirt in them. Those with oily skin also need to look for toners with natural ingredients to help fight inflammation such as ginseng, rose, or chamomile. Use a gentle toner in the morning with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or aloe.


People fighting oily skin may think that skipping the moisturizer is OK since they have too much oil in their skin anyway, but that is wrong! Skin that is too dry will kick up its oil production and lead to even oilier skin, so don't skip it.

You should look for a lightweight moisturizer. Gel moisturizers are a good bet for oily skin as well. In the morning, use a lightweight gel or serum that is hydrating. You may want to test a few products out to see which is the best for you overall.

Protect with Sunscreen

If there was one skincare product you never want to skip in your routine, it's sunscreen. Using SPF daily helps to protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun. For those with oily skin, you may imagine that putting on sunscreen would only make your skin feel even oilier, but not if you find the right sunscreen!

There are lightweight sunscreens out there that can help to get the job done without making your skin's oil situation more serious. We love these lightweight sunscreens:

  • Revision Skincare- Intellishade Matte SPF 45
  • Sente- Invisible Shield Full Physical SPF 49
  • EltaMD- UV Clear SPF 46

At Night

For your evening skincare, the steps are similar but a little bit different. You should:


This first recommendation for oily skin may have you scratching your head at first, but hear us out use cleansing oil. Yes, we know, oil on oily skin seems counterintuitive. But if you choose a cleansing oil with antibacterial and anti- inflammatory ingredients, such as witch hazel or tea tree oil, you're doing your skin a big favor.

You should double cleanse in the evening as well, following up the cleansing oil with a foam or gel cleanser. It's recommended to massage this cleanser into your skin for at least one minute, then rinse.


In the evening, a more potent toner than what you used in the morning is a good idea. This will help to remove excess oil that has accumulated throughout the day and tighten your pores. A toner that contains AHAs will penetrate deep into pores.

Here's a great hydrating mist with witch hazel that will tighten pores:

  • Nazarian Skincare- Soothe


Your nighttime skincare routine is where you would want to add a thicker moisturizer. This is because the skin may lose a lot of its moisture overnight as it works to rejuvenate and repair.

You can also use a serum with hyaluronic acid to deliver moisture to your skin before bed and looking for one with retinol isn't a bad idea either. Oily skin does well with retinol as it will improve the skin's collagen production while decreasing oil. It will keep your pores tight and prevent clogging.

We love these products with hyaluronic acid:

  • Skinceuticals- Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier (H. A. )
  • EltaMD- PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer

Should You Exfoliate?

Exfoliation is a helpful way to remove dirt and debris from deep in the pores and keep breakouts at bay, but if you have oily skin, then you need to be careful. Using an exfoliation product that is too harsh for skin can lead to dryness. This can then lead to the overproduction of oil and bring you right back to where you started.

If you want to add in an exfoliating cleanser, then reach for a chemical exfoliator such as salicylic acid. It's a great tool in your skincare routine for oily skin because it's antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, helping to keep skin healthy and free from breakouts. Still, don't use an exfoliator as a part of your everyday routine. Once or twice per week is all you need. This is a great exfoliator to add to your skincare routine:

  • Nazarian Skincare- Polish

What About Masks for Oily Skin?

Purifying masks are a great idea and something you can slip into your skincare routine a few times per week if you want to, after cleansing and exfoliation. For oily skin, alternating between a detoxifying mask one day and a hydrating mask another is a good idea. Detoxifying masks help to remove oil from the pores while hydrating masks with glycolic and salicylic acids draw out the impurities to keep skin healthy. We love this mask:

  • Revision Skincare- Black Mask

A Few More Oily Skin Tips

A few other tips you may want to keep in mind when caring for your oily skin include:

  • Use blotting sheets Blotting sheets are a great way to remove excess oil in your T-zone throughout the day, absorbing oil that sits on your skin quickly and easily.
  • Use hyaluronic acid After you've used toner, it's time for hyaluronic acid. This skincare ingredient is great for hydration and helps to balance skin.
  • Give niacinamide a try If you're looking to get a handle on oil production, then niacinamide may just be the ticket. This vitamin (B3) helps to decrease pore size, brighten skin, and support your skin's healthy moisture barrier, all while keeping oil in check.

The Bottom Line

Oily skin is nothing to be afraid of it's just how you were made. The key is to care for skin in the way it needs to be cared for. Build a skincare routine that will tailor to your skin type, no matter what type of skin you are dealing with. This will provide the best results and give you healthy, youthful-looking skin for years to come.

The best skincare routine for oily skin is simply one that you stick to each day. If you have any questions or need help building your skincare routine, use our online contact form and someone will get back with you as soon as possible.


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